Some Metro Police Disciplinary Actions Going Unreported
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Is the Metro Police Department following the rules when it comes to disciplining problem officers?
A top state official says no.
This comes after a NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered more than three dozen Metro officers were allowed to leave the department in good standing despite facing serious disciplinary charges.
Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson admits the police department has made reporting mistakes.
But he makes no apologies for the deals he's made with these officers.
Grainy surveillance video shows Metro police officer Chad Knaggs in November of 2013 repeatedly kneeing a handcuffed suspect in a wheelchair. An internal affairs investigation found Knaggs was abusive and used unncessary force. The case was referred to the District Attorney's office, and Knaggs was charged with assault.
But the Metro Police Department didn't fire Knaggs.
Instead, they let him take a 30-day suspension and resign "in good standing."
And our investigation found this is common practice with Metro Police.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Anderson, "In many cases, these are officers facing termination and you're letting them leave the department in good standing?"
His answer: "Exactly."
The chief admits it's not always an easy decision, but he says it is the easiest way to ensure an officer is off the force.
"What I am concerned about is the civil service commission telling me take this officer back, put them on the street and let them serve the citizens of Nashville," Anderson explained.
But in the last five years, our investigation found 43 officers have left the Metro Police Department this way.
That includes officers who we discovered had been charged with DUI and violating the implied consent law. There was an officer who showed up to work drunk. One officer had an ongoing sexual relationship with a confidential informant.
Another had sex while working a police sanctioned security job. One officer tried to get drug charges against his wife dropped. And another officer hit and injured a pedestrian with his patrol car and reportedly fled the scene.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates said to Chief Anderson, "Some of these (allegations) are pretty serious."
"Oh, yes, very serious," he replied.
"You didn't want these officers on your force?" we asked.
"I did not," Anderson answered.
We then asked, "Do you think another police department would want these officers on their force?"
His response: "They should not."
But just weeks after Chad Knaggs left the Metro police force, he was hired by the Spring Hill Police Department ,who evidently had no idea of the trouble he'd been in.
"That's concerning," said Brian Grisham, executive secretary of Tennessee's Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Commission.
The POST Commission is the state board that certifies all full-time law enforcement officers in Tennessee.
POST rules require police departments to report any officer who is suspended for 15 days or more, resigns in lieu of termination, or is fired for disciplinary reasons.
"The most important reason is to keep them from going to another department and creating the same issue," Grisham explained.
But we found the Metro police department failed to accurately report all of those officers who, in many cases, resigned facing termination, according to their personnel records.
The chief, though, insisted on calling it something else.
"They did not resign in lieu of termination. They resigned in a settlement agreement, " he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Metro's top cop maintained that because of these "settlement agreements," the officers left "in good standing," so the department did not have to report the officers' disciplinary problems.
Instead, we found Metro simply told POST that the officers had resigned or resigned for "personal reasons."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked the POST Commission's Grisham, "If you get notification that someone resigned for personal reasons, what does that tell you?'
"We take it for its face," he stated.
"And you don't investigate?" we asked.
"That, it's not a disciplinary matter," he replied.
"And so it goes no further?" we continued.
Grisham responded, "Right."
That means the POST Commission never had any reason to consider revoking the certificates of any of the 43 officers who took settlement agreements, including Chad Knaggs, the officer charged with assaulting the handcuffed man in the wheelchair.
"It appears the POST Commission has decertified people for far less?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Grisham.
"Yes," he answered.
Even though Metro didn't report their resignations, POST rules still required Metro to report the 30-day suspensions for all 43 officers, something we discovered that Metro failed to do.
"So whether that was a breakdown in the system, whether it was negligence, whether it was something else, at this time, I don't know. I'm having that looked at," Anderson explained.
The chief told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that, from now on, every suspension six days or longer will be reported and Metro will leave it up to POST to investigate.
But Anderson said the Metro police department will continue to offer settlement agreements even if they allow officers to get police jobs elsewhere.
"While I would like to take care of the whole world, I can't. It is my responsibility to take care of Nashville," he added.
But, we asked, "Don't you think the people living outside of Nashville will take exception to this?"
Anderson replied, "Well, that very well may be the case and before anyone hires anyone, I would suggest that they check out where they worked. "
But we found the Spring Hill Police Department did check out Chad Knaggs' personnel file at Metro before they hired him. The problem was none of the reports on why he left the department was in there.
And his, our investigation revealed, wasn't the only file missing disciplinary reports.
"That's an error on our part. Those should be in there," Anderson admitted.
The chief said record-keeping mistakes have been made and will be fixed.
But he stands by Metro's policy that allows officers to do something like Officer Knaggs did and then leave the department as if nothing happened.
"This is an arrangement I am not happy with, but it's an arrangement I find necessary," Anderson conceded.
We also found that Metro failed to accurately report a number of officers who were fired or who resigned with discipline pending. The chief said they will look into these cases as well.
And, late this Thursday afternoon, NewsChannel 5 obtained a copy of a letter that the chief sent to POST, admitting the department has made mistakes and promising to fix them.
And, if it sounds like these agreements officers are getting from Metro are allowing them to fly under the radar of the POST Commission, they are -- or at least have been.
The POST Commission told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that now that we've exposed what's going on, when Metro reports these 30 day suspensions, the Commission will be taking a closer look at these cases.